Could a scene from 'Jaws' help solve a mysterious 44-year-old cold case?
On June 25, 1975, the world was left chilled to the core by a gruesome tale that left many people fearful of the beach. The shocking nature of the story still haunts the general public to this day, despite 40 years worth of damage control by the police and various tourist boards.
The release of Jaws, like many of Steven Spielberg's films, changed the world as we know it. The fictional film was a critical and commercial success, raking in three Academy Awards and $470 million at the box office (of a $9 million budget).
But while the cast and crew collected their paychecks, a real horror story was taking place on the sand dunes of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a mere 100 miles from Martha's Vineyard, where Jaws was predominantly filmed. The scandalous story, much like Jaws, begins with a young woman's gruesome death...
On July 26, 1974, the deeply decomposed body of a young woman was discovered by a teenager on the side of the road near the Race Point Dunes. Two sets of footprints led to the body and tire tracks were discovered 50 yards away from the scene.
Due to the depth of decay, it was determined that the victim has been murdered two weeks prior to the disturbing discovery. The postmortem report stated that the cause of death was blunt trauma to the head. However, the victim was also found nearly decapitated, believed to be from strangulation.
Despite the extensive injuries, there was no sign of a struggle, suggesting that the victim may have known her killer. However, the motive for the murder remains unclear, although there was signs of sexual assault, possibly postmortem.
The victim was found face down, her body lying on a beach blanket. Underneath her head detectives found a pair of Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana (remember this, as it's important for later). They also found a gold-flecked hair tie in her auburn hair, which was pulled back into a ponytail at the time.
Interestingly, the killer had removed several of the victim's teeth as well as both her hands. It is believed this action was taken to deter the authorities from being able to identify the body, or the killer - given that the victim had had $5,000 - $10,000 worth of dental work done, these missing teeth would have been vital in helping to identify the victim.
The victim was initially buried in October 1974 after the case went cold. However, the body was exhumed in 1980, 2000 and 2013 after further information became available to investigators.
The most interesting theory on the case came in 2015, when Joe Hill, the son of famed horror author Steven King (the man behind titles such as The Shining and It) outlandishly claimed that the 'Lady of the Dunes' was an extra on Jaws.
Hill's wild theory was born after he read the book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America's Coldest Cases. Then, as if by coincidence, a few weeks later he happened to watch Jaws.
Do you think there is any possibility that this woman could be 'The Lady of the Dunes'?
During the 'July 4 Crowd Arrives' sequence, Hill made an eagle-eyed discovery when he spotted a woman, fitting the description of the 'Lady of the Dunes' in the throngs of people. Eerily, the woman was wearing a blue bandana.
Now, linking this film extra to the 'Lady of the Dunes' would certainly seem far-fetched if it wasn't for the fact that the crime scene was just a mere 100 miles away from Martha's Vineyard, where Jaws was shot.
This, combined with the fact that Jaws was filmed in the area in 1974, around the time of the murder, makes for a compelling case. Principal photography for Jaws began on May 2, 1974 and did not wrap til October 6, 1974, after delays caused by faults with the mechanical sharks. The 'Lady of the Dunes' was discovered on 26 July, however, it is believed that she died several weeks earlier.
Thus, it wasn't surprising when the lead investigator in the case noted his interest in Hill's theory. "Odder ideas have cracked colder cases," stated a former FBI agent.
However, to date, the case remains cold. The 'Lady on the Dunes' remains unidentified and the location of the killer continues to be a mystery.